Follow-up on the chemical bottle explosion at the University of Rochester on 10/18/2014:
This occurred in the Chemistry Department. It involved a 4 liter amber colored glass bottle which was rinsed with a mixture of acetone and ethanol. The bottle was then used to collect 50% nitric acid waste. There seems to be conflicting accounts regarding how much residual solvent was left in the bottle. Apparently the procedure was to collect the rinsate in an organic waste container, then allow the contents to fully evaporate to remove any residue. It sounds like that procedure was not followed, and 100 ml of 50% nitric acid was added to the bottle which was still contaminated with acetone/ethanol rinsate. The cap was then put in place and tightened. After a few minutes, one of the students heard the bottle hissing and he approached the bottle to adjust the cap, at which point it exploded injuring him and two other students in the lab. Thankfully, none of the injuries were serious. Needless to say, the Department is rewriting their procedure to ensure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again. The use of plastic waste collection bottles for nitric acid (which has a tendency to react with just about everything) has been recommended, as well.
Brad Miller, CHMM
Manager, Environmental Compliance
Environmental Health and Safety
University of Rochester